Getting voices heard in mental health

Written by Cathy Fallon, director of Loretto Housing and Care on 2 February 2017 in Comment

Associate feature: ending mental health stigma is the key to ensuring people with mental health issues lead more fulfilling lives, writes Loretto Housing and Care Director Cathy Fallon

Pic: Ensemble music project - credit Loretto Care

Associate feature on behalf of Wheatley Group

When JP started hearing voices, he needed help.

But instead of getting it, he was judged and misunderstood.

It made him feel alone and abnormal. He stopped working, and eventually lost his home.

A quarter of us experience problems with our mental health, like JP.

But nine in every 10 of us face discrimination and stigma because of it, which presents a major barrier to recovery.

It could prevent us seeking help, isolate us from friends and family, or cost us our job.

So, what is to be done to fix it?

Listening to what people have to say and having frank conversations about mental wellbeing is a good place to start. And that is exactly what Loretto Care is doing through its ground-breaking Ensemble music project.

The project brought together the people we work for with professional musicians to write, record and perform original songs about their experiences.

The results are stunning songs with the power to move you, and make you move too.

JP was one person taking part. Afterwards, he told us: “It gave me the chance to learn to speak to people and to realise that not everyone judges. I gave a wee bit of trust and it all came out and really helped me start talking about my mental health”.

Like all the songs written, JP’s song Normal challenges our understanding of mental health and what lived experience of problems feels like.

When my colleagues ask me about the Ensemble, I can only say: “It is amazing”.

It has had an amazing effect on people taking part, giving them a chance to explore their creativity, get their voices heard and improve their confidence and self-esteem.

And it has allowed us to reach a wide audience, through live gigs, a single release and radio airtime – we have even performed for the First Minister. Great music means people’s voices are heard loud and clear.

Three songs are available for download now.  We hope you will listen to the music, think about the lyrics, and start some conversations of your own.

I’ll leave you with the words of one participant – Billy Harper.

“If we stand together and sing/we can do anything…

Listen to what we say.”

Cathy Fallon is Director of Loretto Housing and Care, part of Wheatley Group – Scotland’s largest housing, property and care organisation.

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